It was not to be the result we craved and dared to hope for, but in terms of a marker for where Women’s Football is in 2018, the excitement around last night’s World Cup Qualifier at Tallaght Stadium was a winner in other ways.
The advertising and promotional campaign that backed the team’s doubleheader home fixtures against Slovakia and the Netherlands was well executed and drove people to ignore the driving rain and cheer on the team.
It was especially gratifying to see a Dad clad in Liverpool gear holding the hands of his two daughters as they went to get autographs from the team at pitchside after the game. In a previous life, he would have been glued to a TV screen or making the journey to Manchester last night to see his ‘other’ team progress in Europe.
There were little vignettes like this around the ground, all of them bound by a real sense of wonder in young faces which will inevitably translate into a deeper relationship to sport in general and soccer in particular in the years to come.
FAI Women’s Football Chairperson Niamh O’Donoghue wrote in the programme last night about the “huge strides we have made over the past year,” and of the future of the sport being extremely bright.
Around the pitch and in the stands Three were a strong presence as national team sponsors. They were joined as tight as Colin Bell’s end of game huddle by Aviva, on board for three years as a start to their partnership with the Women’s Game, and by Continental Tyres who sponsor the National League and who will provide the stepping stone from camps and juvenile soccer for girls through to representing their country on an ever bigger stage.
There was no paternalism about the support last night. The anger at some refereeing decisions was as strong as at any other match. The recognition of another fine defensive performance, undone by one good goal and one unfair penalty was genuine and genuinely understood.
This team showed enough last night, and in the campaign so far to suggest they are real contenders for a Play-Off place. The focus now moves on to the game at home and away to Norway on June 8th and 12th.
There will be fewer other sporting distractions, the weather will be better, the crowd of 4,017 will want to come back for more, and to be joined by others.
This was not a 2-0 defeat and the end of dreams of winning the group. It was the next stage of building from the ground up and one which sets us on our way to better days and nights ahead.
Come On You Girls in Green!
Join us for a series of special Help for What Matters Rugby Club roadshows in Belfast, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Dublin in the coming weeks. Learn what can help your club excel in sponsorship, fundraising, grant application, finance and meet Ireland legend Alan Quinlan.
Admission is free but registratioin is essential. Secure your place at one of our five venues right here.
Image Credit Bryan Keane, Inpho Photography